Joseph Pritchard

Quicklet On Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (Cliffsnotes-like Book Summaries)

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Quicklets are your reading sidekick — use this while reading Moby-Dick to learn more about the book!


Joseph Pritchard is passionate reader and writer. He has a bachelor's degree in Biology and also completed a degree in medicine. He has written for other prominent online publications and enjoys writing on a variety of topics.


Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, the third in a family with eight children. he left home in 1837 in the aftermath of his father's death. The need to make living coupled with an in-born wanderlust lead Melville to spend the majority of the next ten years at sea.

Melville traveled to such diverse locals as England, Hawaii, and the Marquesas Islands on whaling ships and cargo transports. It was these voyages that inspired the subject matter for Melville's early works, such as Typee, Omoo, and White Jacket. These adventure stories, with their exotic locales and equally alluring female protagonists, ignited the imagination of the English-speaking world and made Melville a writing sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.

With the proceeds from his book sales, Melville settled down in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he married and bought a small farm tract with the intention of assuming the life of a full-time writer. Soon after, Melville became involved in the relationship that would alter his destiny: a friendship with fellow writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The retired Hawthorne, already long celebrated as the literary genius of America' first century, lived in a nearby town. Melville naturally gravitated toward the older man as source of inspiration, criticism, and what Melville biographer Raymond Weaver calls their shared pessimism about the America that was emerging as world power in the late 1840's. While their ultimate parting was strained, it was during these years that Melville determined to write a towering, allegorical masterpiece to match the importance of Hawthorne's Scarlett Letter, dedicated to his mentor.

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